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Ep 409: Inclusive Hiring


In the latter part of last year, I had two conversations on the show about hiring from marginalised groups. The first was with Eugène van den Hemel, who is doing pioneering work in The Netherlands to connect refugees with employment opportunities. The second was with Darren Burns, who runs the ex-offender hiring programme for UK retailer Timpson.

Both of these conversations were eye-opening for me. They highlighted that now more than ever, employers need to challenge traditional policies and beliefs to think differently about hiring if they want to be genuinely inclusive.

I wanted to know more, and a few weeks ago, I was introduced to James Fellowes and Chance Bleu-Montgomery from Prosper4, who run an inclusive hiring portal called the Bridge of Hope. Their organisation helps bridge the gap between being job-ready and getting a job in many marginalised and diverse talent pools.

Their knowledge and expertise come from incredibly challenging personal experiences, and it was a privilege to give them this platform to tell their story.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Being in the business of changing lives

• Inclusive recruitment and inclusive employment

• Building a coalition of support services covering critical areas such as qualifications, finance and broader family support

• What does the talent come from

• Improving the odds both for job seekers and employers

• The huge benefits to employers

• Which employers are embracing inclusive recruiting

• Future plans

Listen to this podcast in Apple Podcasts.

Interview Transcript:

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Matt Alder (1m 5s):
Hi, there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to episode 409 of The Recruiting Future Podcast. In the latter part of last year, I had two conversations on the show about hiring from marginalized groups. The first was with Bas van de Haterd, who is doing pioneering work in The Netherlands to connect refugees with employment opportunities. The second was with Darren Burns, who runs the ex-offender hiring Programme for UK retailer, Timpson. Both of these conversations were eye opening for me. They highlighted that, now more than ever, employers need to challenge traditional policies and beliefs to think differently about hiring if they want to be genuinely inclusive.

Matt Alder (1m 49s):
I wanted to know more. A few weeks ago, I was introduced to James Fellowes and Chance Bleu Montgomery from Prosper 4, who runs an inclusive hiring portal called the Bridge of Hope. Their organization helps bridge the gap between being job-ready and getting a job in many marginalized and diverse talent pools. Their knowledge and expertise come from incredibly challenging personal experiences. It was a privilege to give them this platform to tell their story. Please keep listening. This is incredibly important. Hi, James.

Matt Alder (2m 29s):
Hi, Chance. Welcome to the podcast. Could you just introduce yourselves and tell us what you do?

James Fellowes (2m 35s):
Good afternoon, Matt. Many thanks for inviting us to your podcast. My name is James Fellowes, and I’m the founder of the Bridge of Hope, which is an inclusive talent portal based in the UK. I was born lucky.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (2m 51s):
I’m Chance Bleu Montgomery. I’m the partner support manager on Bridge of Hope and I was born unlucky.

Matt Alder (3m 0s):
Now, as listeners might already have guessed, you both have very, very interesting stories that I really want to ig into because they’re so very relevant to what we’re talking about on the show today. Before we do though, tell us a little bit about your organization. It’s a bit of a unique organization. What makes it so different?

James Fellowes (3m 19s):
Yes. We work for a pioneering social impact business called Prosper4 group, and our unique claim to fame if you can call it that is that most of our executive team and indeed much of our organization have been locked up. In my case, in a psychiatric ward outside New York.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (3m 40s):
In my case, it was a prison in Brixton and a mental hospital in Hackney.

Matt Alder (3m 47s):
Okay. James, you said you were born lucky. Tell us your story?

James Fellowes (3m 51s):
Well, to be honest, I was actually born incredibly lucky. I had a very idyllic childhood brought up in New Market, which is near Cambridge and the home of horse racing. I had a lovely, welcoming family and a very privileged childhood. About age 13, I was sent away to the world’s most famous or now infamous school. Yes, you’ve probably guessed it, where I was in the same class as a chap called Cameron who went on to run the country. I was also a few years below a chap called Boris, and probably better not say any more on that front.

James Fellowes (4m 31s):
Having left Eaton, I went to Edinburgh University and then I joined the graduate training program for Bass, which at the time was the world’s leading hospitality company. I spent a very happy 12 years with Bass and then got headhunted to move over to Guinness, which ultimately became part of Diaggio, the world’s leading premium drinks company. I had an unbelievable good fortune from a creative point of view and from a family point of view. In 2002, I was moved over to America with Diaggio and was running most of the biggest customers in North America, happily married, I had three incredible children and I, frankly, was living the American dream in a large mansion with a swimming pool and a white picket fence.

James Fellowes (5m 18s):
Then in 2008, my luck ran out.

Matt Alder (5m 23s):
Chance, unlike James, you were born unlucky. Tell us about some of the incredible challenges that you faced.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (5m 31s):
I was born into a family where my dad didn’t think I was his and so I experienced physical abuse. The first beam before I was ne year old and this went on. I didn’t feel significant at home and with trauma. When I grew up a bit, I left the family house. I met some friends and they made me feel significant, but the by-product of that is that they were from the ad social membership. It was only going to be a matter of time before I got into trouble and I did. By the time I was 16, I ended up in prison. Then by the time I was 18, my sister took me to a mental hospital because things had gotten really bad.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (6m 19s):
I chase my tail a little bit and really try to make some changes, but this was a struggle, and, and then my sister died. She died of cancer. Within a year, my life had unraveled. I didn’t want to talk about it because that would make it real. Within that year, I ended up in prison again.

Matt Alder (6m 43s):
These are both very powerful stories. Then you both had epiphany moments, which were very different that set you on the path that you’re on now. tell us about them, James. Pick up your story first.

James Fellowes (6m 57s):
Okay, so we’re in 2008, I’m sure you remember. It was the era of the financial crash and it affected every large organization, regardless of sector. Sadly, when the music stopped and a large reorganization in my organization, there was no seat left for me. For the first time ever, I was unemployed. Suddenly, my lucky streak was over, frankly, with a vengeance. During the next seven years, anything that could go wrong did go wrong. I was swindled twice. All my savings were cleaned out. I was sued by somebody who closed down my successful startup business and I was made redundant no less than four times.

James Fellowes (7m 39s):
On top of this, there was a major property crash and our finances effectively crated so badly that I wasn’t actually able to feed my kids. I had no money left to do that. I’m sure everybody who’s listening, who is a parent will appreciate that you’re hard-wired to do that. Unfortunately, I was unable to operate. My brain effectively closed down, and in the space of three weeks, I lost just under three stones. Ultimately, I was sectioned for the foreseeable future at the time. A very scary experience taken to a psychiatric ward just outside of New York, but fortunately, after two or three weeks, my brother and uncle came and they took me out to the ward and brought me back to the UK to recover.

James Fellowes (8m 29s):
It was pretty clear fairly soon that, unfortunately, everything had unraveled. My marriage was over, my access to my kids are gone, and I’d lost my career, my house. The whole lot had come down like a stack of cards. The only thing I gained was a diagnosis of bipolar. I tried to get a job, but pretty well immediately, I was effectively unemployable. Nobody wanted to hire me, whether it be a coffee shop or a pub. The only place I could get a job was a place that didn’t want to see these, which was a frozen food factory down the road. I was the janitor at minus 55 degrees for about eight months. Unfortunately, t did get a little bit of a lucky break, got back into the drinks industry on the data side.

James Fellowes (9m 14s):
I had two years where things were really going great. I doubled my targets, everything was great. Then they brought a new CEO, Owen, and he thought that I was expensive and that two 24-year-olds could do a better job and save a bit of money. For one more time, I was made redundant once again. That was when, after being made redundant, I sat on a church wall in east London. That was when I had my personal “come to Jesus” moment or epiphany moment. I know it sounds a cliche, but it genuinely did happen where I was like, “Okay, do you want to carry on effectively selling legal drugs or do you actually want to make a positive difference to the world?”

Matt Alder (9m 58s):
Chance, let’s pick up your story. What happened to you?

James Fellowes (10m 1s):
Well, after my sister died and my life unravel does, as you’ve heard, I ended up inside. I sat down and I asked myself this question. I said, “Do you like who you are? Do you like who you’ve become?” The answer was worse than no. I’d had enough and I didn’t think I wanted to live anymore at this point. I had these choices in front of me, either to, well, not live or change. I threw everything in the kitchen sink and the neighbor’s kitchen sink at change, and I spent three years and 10 months in therapy to deal with the childhood traumas, to unlock some pain.

James Fellowes (10m 52s):
Also, spent five years studying, moved to a university to give me an education, which my childhood didn’t afford to me, and done swipes of personal development programs. After doing all of that work, I remember having this incredible overwhelming feeling of joy and warm, warm tears just came flooding down my face and they were those tears of joy. It was because, Matt, for the first time in my entire life, I felt freedom. No more emotional discombobulation, no more anger. I was filled with forgiveness. Most importantly, I was taught to the brim with self-respect.

James Fellowes (11m 35s):
I realized a few things. Well, one my childhood experiences, my childhood history was no longer going to define my future. I realized that I’d finally become the person I was always meant to be. That was after some really hard work. I decided on that very day that whatever work I do going forward, I want it to be a job that supports and nourishes the lives of other people in communities. Getting involve with Bridge of Hope, was a reall blessing that I could now reach marginalized or system-impacted, diverse talent from across the board, whether they be veterans, people who came in contact with the criminal justice system, people with diversity, you name it.

Matt Alder (12m 34s):
Coming back to James, you decided to leave the drinks industry. You want to change the world. How did you end up pioneering Inclusive recruitment?

James Fellowes (12m 42s):
Well, that’s a very good question. To be honest, I had no clue what I wanted to do once I’d made that decision. The only thing that I felt to my core was it was going to be something to do with jobs and employment. I had my own personal experience where I’d had over two decades in employment where life was frankly, absolutely golden, and then I had seven years were largely a period of unemployment where life was an absolute train wreck. I thought this can’t be just me. That was the plan was I’m thinking was going to do something about employment, but I had no idea how. As luck would have it, that evening when I just had my moments on the wall, I was meeting up with my best mate from my childhood, a chap called George for curry that evening.

James Fellowes (13m 32s):
Now, George and I were best mates in New Market whilst I had a very happy childhood. Unfortunately, he didn’t. His father had actually been the winning jockey in the grand national in 1958, which is actually an incredible achievement. Unfortunately, after that, his father’s life had unraveled through alcohol, gambling, and concussion. George had a really, really tough time. Despite that, he went on to become successful as a biotech CEO, then went on into the government, and is now the minister for science and innovation. Anyway, I met up with George that evening and I told him about what had happened.

James Fellowes (14m 13s):
He’s like, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry.” I’m like, “No, this is great news. I’m going to go and make a big difference.” After he checked whether I was actually taking my pills or not and he realized I was serious, he said, “Well, I tell you what. Why don’t you come and be an intern in the house of parliament for three months? I’ve got one space left. I’d like to remember my dad and let’s see if we can turn the cliche of two lemons into lemonade.” I started on Monday afterward in the house of commons. George said to me, “Okay, look, you just get on and do this,” but the remit was quite simple and it was to go find something nobody else was doing in the social sector and then let’s trial it or pilot it in the horse racing sector.

James Fellowes (14m 57s):
If it works, we can scale it. I thought that was a fantastic remit. I was like, “Okay, well, where do I start?” I knew it was gonna be to do with people and jobs and so I started ringing quite a few of the charities, the most household name charities in the UK. I was asking them what they did and how their model worked. It was extraordinary. I must have run about 15 or 20 charities that looked after people. They all had the same model, which was that they picked people up who had a tough time. They may have been homeless, they may have been in prison, they may be refugees, veterans, you name it, whatever it was, and they helped rehabilitate them or get them back on track.

James Fellowes (15m 37s):
Ultimate, the end game was to get them job-ready or work-ready. I said, “Well, that’s fantastic. What about a job?” The answer was, “Well, no, we don’t actually do that.” I heard so many different CEOs who said the same thing. All of them focused on getting them work-ready or job-ready and none of them actually helped them get a job. I’m like, “Wow, this is an incredible talent pool. People, who are supported by charities, are now rehabilitated, ready to get back on in the game, but there’s no access for them to get to the employers. Meanwhile, on the other side, you’ve got the employers who three years ago when we started, were screaming out for more people and also wanted more diverse talent so it struck me.

James Fellowes (16m 26s):
There was a massive missing link, and hence the Bridge of Hope, to connect charities with amazing talent ready for a job and employers who are looking for more diverse talent. That was the theory. We went to the horse racing industry. Well, first of all, actually, we did a little bit of research. I did some research to try and see if there was some substance behind this or not and found there was some great research by the British Business in the Community and also CIPD. It talked about this group of people. We call them untapped talent and it compared them with normal talent as it were people who haven’t had adversaries, don’t have barriers to employment.

James Fellowes (17m 9s):
The results were extraordinary because on pretty well every metric, the untapped group or the discarded group perform better, whether that was working hard, staying longer, or actually they were great for your reputation. The obvious case point there is Timpson’s. I know, Matt, you did a talk with Darren from Timpsons a few weeks back. We had our idea. We had our research, which demonstrated it made sense. We went to the racing industry. They loved it. We piloted it for about 18 months and it worked very well in theory, but the honest answer was it wasn’t terribly scalable, it was very analog, and it was expensive to do as well.

James Fellowes (17m 51s):
At the same time, I met a chap called Michael. Now Michael made my career crash look pretty tame. He’d been a partner at Deloitte and then he made an interesting career decision of joining a Nigerian bank. On the back of that, he spent two and a half years regretting joining a Nigerian bank in a prison just outside London. When Michael came out of prison, nobody was interested in the fact that he was a former partner of Deloitte. All they cared about was that he was a former convict and so nobody would hire him. Five years ago, he set up Prosper4, our business, to help originally ex-offenders get into work.

James Fellowes (18m 33s):
That’s proved to be pretty successful, especially when he created a digital jobs’ board in 2016, started really scaling. They put about six or 700 former prisoners into work, but there was one flaw. That was a commercial floor and nobody was prepared to pay for the privilege of hiring ex-offenders. It was the good deed of the day stuff. If you imagine we had these two separate journeys, we were starting to combine forces, and then COVID happened, which was a terrifying experience. I’m sure, everybody had the same thing. We were looking at two organizations that were both about to go belly up so we said, “Well, hold on a second. We’ve got some real strengths in both of these particular areas.

James Fellowes (19m 15s):
What about if we merge them?” The idea was to take Michael’s digital jobs’ board and experience working with marginalized communities and my inclusive model fed by charities and also social enterprises and universities, and put the two together to create the Bridge of Hope, which is what we did about 13 months ago.

Matt Alder (19m 37s):
Chance, coming back to you. You decided to turn your life around and really wanted to focus on helping other people. How did you meet James and how did you end up getting involved in Bridge of Hope?

Chance Bleu Montgomery (19m 55s):
Well, during my journey of personal development, I was working with a couple of our referral partners actually, who were supporting me in various ways. I was introduced to James, he became my mentor, and he’s been guiding me ever since with some of the business stuff that I’ve been doing, some of my entrepreneurial things, and in life in general. One thing about James is he’s really good at spotting diamonds in the rough and made me realize that I was one of them. He, in a way, I suppose, give me a little dusting off and a little polishing, and I’m sparkling now. He’s brought me in on Bridge of Hope.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (20m 36s):
A lot of it is based not just on the things that I can bring to the table, but there is a really strong passion that drives me to help all our 130 referral partners and get their candidates into employment. When you asked me to get involved with Bridge of Hope, we had a good look at it and we thought it was fantastic that there’s this wonderful pathway, this wonderful bridge where marginalized and diverse candidates can get themselves into employment with employers who are looking for them.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (21m 19s):
We didn’t think this was good enough. We wanted it to be even much more better than that. We wanted the journey across that bridge to nourish the lives of the candidates going over. We’ve lots of support stores and so we have a great few stores on that bridge. One, for any candidate, for instance, who’s ambivalent and unsure, there are lots of career changes going on at the moment, they can put in all their information and that will give them back a list of industries whose skills are transferable to you.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (22m 2s):
Another store that we have on the bridge offers free qualifications. If a candidate was to find out that, actually, I’m going to be great in this new industry that I had no idea about, where do I get the tickets? Where do I get the qualifications? Well, you can get them in the next store. Then we have some pathways into hospitality and things like that, but there are two that are really great that are really important to us. They were the financial ones. One, we’ll help our candidates to access their wages before payday, which is fantastic because we know, it doesn’t matter who you are, when you go into a new job, you’re completely out of your comfort zone.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (22m 44s):
If you’ve experienced any social anxieties and things like this, having a utility bill come in that you can’t pay while you’re working your month in hand could be a real problem and could really cause you to struggle some more. What we’ve got is this in place. If they’ve worked three weeks, they can access three weeks’ wages to pay for that bell. They don’t have to worry about it and they carry on down the good path into employment. The other financial support that we have for all our candidates on Bridge of Hope is an organization called Income Max and what they do is they don’t only give our candidates free financial advice, they give that advice to the whole family.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (23m 31s):
I’ve tried them myself to support members of my family, particularly through lockdown when mum was sort of struggling. We want to keep her warm and stuff. We got them involved and they turned everything around very quickly in six weeks. I knew this was the same for first in family graduates. We support quite a few of those, because if you get a degree, if you’re the one in your family that turns their life around or you’re the one in the family that gets the degree, it’s not just you that gets a degree. The whole family just got a degree. They expect to benefit from that in some way or other.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (24m 15s):
The celebrations are quite huge. Whenever anyone in the family gets into any financial problems, they would normally turn to the one with the earning power, the one who’s got the degree, and so forth, and so lots of pressure comes on people like myself. Having this in place was really great because now, I know all of our first in family graduates, many of whom come from the 25 universities we work with, can now offer income max as a service to their families, as opposed to taking on the pressure themselves and trying to deal with that. As we build this coalition, it’s built truly from a point of empathy because I am the end user so I know what’s really important.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (25m 3s):
Rather than having a nourishing journey but with too much clutter, these are really special and important components that we’re having. We’re just about to put together the coalition of resources also for employers as well.

Matt Alder (25m 21s):
James, tell us a bit more about Bridge of Hope’s unique talent pool. Where does your talent come from and how is what you do different from other diverse job boards that are out there?

James Fellowes (25m 34s):
Absolutely. I think the primary difference, and Chance alluded to it earlier, is that our untapped talent is largely sourced from referral partners. Typically, they’re charities or social enterprises who focus around employability and what we call widening participation universities. We also have walk-ins, so people that might see what we’re doing on social media, or see an opportunity, and also have barriers to employment. Of course, we’d like to include them as well. We basically have a dozen talent pools and these would include anything from veterans, women returners, young people, care leavers, bottom line, anyone with barriers to employment.

James Fellowes (26m 20s):
If you’re trying to get a feel for the types of referral partners we might have, just looking at the homeless talent pool, we work closely with some extraordinary organizations such as Mungo’s, Crisis, Center point, and Youth Homelessness so some really great organizations. There are also a couple of talent boards that we think are really ripe for the picking, as it were, for talent acquisition and recruiters. The first one would be refugees. If you think about these, many of them have had highly successful careers before having to leave everything and start all over again.

James Fellowes (27m 1s):
Just getting here, they’ve demonstrated extraordinary resilience and grit, but the great thing is that the refugee charities that we work with then work very closely to ensure that they’ve got work visas, they’ve got a good grasp of the language, and that they’re job-ready and raring to go. People think, “Well, you’re a refugee so we’ve got to put you in a low level job.” Why? They’ve been a CFO in Libya, they’ve been a finance director, or whatever it might be in Syria. Why would they not go in at a high level over here? That’s one fantastic talent pool. Another one, which is near and dear to my heart with bipolar, is the neurodiverse talent pool.

James Fellowes (27m 43s):
The reason why we look at this that we stop thinking about this as basically mental health, disability, or stigma, and start saying, “Hold on a second. Flip the model and start thinking of this as an incredible opportunity to find extraordinary talent.” You don’t need to look much further, for example, than the autistic group, and without stereotyping, I think everybody realizes that that group is unbelievably good at focus, attention to detail, et cetera, et cetera. If you’re recruiting for an organization looking for compliance officers or people on detailed operation roles, why are you not looking at the autistic talent pool?

James Fellowes (28m 24s):
After all, only less than 20% have actually got a job. Now, with the era of homeworking, they could actually have a fantastic job and not have some of the challenges that might come from going into an office. On the flip side of neuro-diverse, dyslexic is another area we think is an incredible little mini talent pool. They’re very creative, highly innovative. Many top entrepreneurs are dyslexic. You look at Richard Branson, you look at Joe Malone, et cetera, and they’ve had to be super creative. They’ve had to find ways to get around a system because they’ve had their entire education where they’ve been basically at a huge disadvantage.

James Fellowes (29m 7s):
You could go on throughout the other different types of neurodiversity, and certainly, from a bipolar point of view, I know that bipolar people are phenomenal at looking for big opportunities. In fact, some research came back that something like 75% of the founding fathers of America are actually bipolar. How do they know that? Well, because a psychologist has done the research, but also, you’d have to be a bit not to leave your nice family farm in Cornwall or Gloucestershire and go over to a barren continent with nothing and think that’s a good idea. We think all of those are amazing talent pools and that they’re supported by these charities, which makes such a huge difference.

James Fellowes (29m 52s):
Our goal at the beginning of the year, beginning of 2021when we started, was that we’d have 12,000 registered candidates from these charity pools. After 13 months now, we were hoping for 12,000, we’re on about 71,000, which has blown away our mind. As Chance mentioned, we’re supported by well over a hundred charities and about 25 universities.

Matt Alder (30m 20s):
Chance, you’ve talked already about some of the partners that you work with to help people on the journey into employment. How important is that work in terms of making sure that people stay at work once they managed to find an opportunity?

Chance Bleu Montgomery (30m 45s):
I think it’s really important to have these support systems in place simply because it’s for people who faced barriers. Yes, indeed, they have lots of resilience and lots of grit, but there is anxiety when looking for employment and when you’ve got a new job because sometimes it’s just so hard to find one in the first place. You don’t get a chance to really shine. When you do get that chance, it’s important to have these things in place, which are really targeted at reducing anxiety at those early stages and also taking pressure off.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (31m 31s):
What happens is you don’t only get a candidate with resilience and grit, and you only have to look to Angela Duckworth’s research on our Ted talk about grit. I think they’d done some tasks where they took a bunch of people with qualifications and a bunch of people with resilience and grit. They put the loads of tasks in front of them and the people with grit one hands down on all of them. What you get is great candidates with grit, but not only that, you get candidates who were supported by myself and other members of the team from the backrooms.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (32m 16s):
We’re always building this coalition to make sure that that stays as smooth and as supportive as possible.

Matt Alder (32m 23s):
James, quickly talk us through the actual product that you have in terms of how you interface with employers and what type of clients are you already working with?

James Fellowes (32m 32s):
Yes, well, we have two core products, Matt. We’re trying to keep it pretty simple. Our first product and our core product is an annual subscription. This allows you, as an employer, to post unlimited jobs and you can hire unlimited new employees. In fact, the more, the better. That’s the whole point of what we’re doing. To date, after just over a year, we’ve had just over 65,000 job postings. Our second product, and the vast majority of our clients actually have both, is a sourcing license. This is more of a proactive license allowing you to go and source the best untapped talent from our portal.

James Fellowes (33m 12s):
You might be thinking, “I’m looking for veterans in the Northeast,” or you might be looking for first-in family graduates in Glasgow. Whatever it might be, this license allows you to go in, have a look in that particular talent pool, that particular geography, and then tap people on the shoulder, ask them if they’d like to be invited to an interview, and then we’d like you to hire as many as you can. Again, totally unlimited and that is the point. Those are our two core products, very simple. As far as employers, we only went commercially live in July last year, but we couldn’t be more thrilled that we’ve got incredible inclusive employers, such as the Body Shop, Direct Line, Santander, Talk Talk, Timpsons, and we also have multiple leading RPOs and talent agencies as well who have subscribed to the service.

James Fellowes (34m 9s):
We couldn’t be more thrilled with the uptake so far after just six months of commercialization.

Matt Alder (34m 17s):
Chance, you have a really interesting role. I think it’s interesting because it illustrates just how important humans still are in the recruitment process in this age of technology. How do you help employers in terms of really improving their odds of finding the best candidates across the talent pools that you work with?

Chance Bleu Montgomery (34m 37s):
Well, there’s a great product, as James explained with the source in license, where you can go in one end, but at the other hand, you’ve got me herding the right talent pool to the right jobs as well. Just as an example, the Body Shop started their open hiring with us. They piloted their UK one over here, and it’s in a particular area I think, near Brighton. I’m able then to contact all of our referral partners and charities in that area where we’ve got candidates living in that area and we can send all of the information to them and that always helps to get a better job uptake.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (35m 24s):
If there are some roles where it’s really, like for instance, where people from the neurodiverse, if it’s like a tech role, I would look into that talent pool, for example, and help the employer to actually realize that there are some different talent pools that they can actually fish from as it were that they might not afford.

Matt Alder (35m 45s):
James, you mentioned the interview that I did before Christmas with Darren from Timpsons. For people listening who didn’t hear that interview or who are based outside the UK and might not have heard of Timpson, Timpson is a UK retailer that absolutely is a driving force and pioneering the recruitment of ex-offenders into their retail shops. Darren talked about this incredible triple win that they have from doing that. There’s obviously a massive win for the people that get jobs. There’s a huge win for Timpson because they’re accessing talent pools that their competitors aren’t even thinking about. Also, there’s a massive win for society in terms of if people have jobs, they’re less likely to re-offend.

Matt Alder (36m 32s):
It was a conversation that really opened my eyes. It’s been amazing talking to you too in this conversation as well. Are there any other best practice employers or people who are employers who are doing this really well?

James Fellowes (36m 46s):
Well, I would agree that Timpson are the best practice and definitely the pioneer. We’re really thrilled and honored to have them as one of our clients. If you wanted another one, I’ve got a bit of an outlier for you, Matt. One that probably, almost certainly, nobody’s ever heard of. They’re a little recycling business in the Northwest of England called Recycling Lives. Fairly early on when I was setting up the Bridge of Hope, somebody suggested I go and talk to them. I went to meet them and I’d heard great things. I didn’t really understand what the angle was here. It turned out that they were a recycling business and they’d set up their own foundation.

James Fellowes (37m 29s):
What had happened was this recycling business, mainly doing TVs and fridges, had gone so well, they’d expanded outside the Northwest. They were then into the Midlands, and then they became fully national across the UK. They were starting to make really good money. They thought they should set up a foundation to give back. I said to him, “Well, what were you hoping to do, and what was the plan?” The honest answer was, “Well, we didn’t have one, but we made it up on the fly.” I said, “Well, how did that go?” What they did was they drove around their home city, which is called Preston near Liverpool, and they found people who were homeless at the time. They asked them basically, “Would you like another crack at life or, if they prefer, another can of Carlsberg?”

James Fellowes (38m 12s):
They gave them another can of Carlsberg. If they were serious about wanting to try and get back into life, they’d say, “Well, come along.” They did an amazing program to help people get back on their feet. It was a three or four month program and gave them confidence, rebooted themselves. At the end of it, they would offer them a job in the recycling business, which sounded amazing. I was like, “Wow, what a great idea.” Worked so well, they dovetail so nicely. I said to the CEO, “Well, what were the biggest benefits of this?” A bit like Darren, he talked about three benefits of this, but they were actually three very different benefits.

James Fellowes (38m 55s):
He said, “Well, the third biggest benefit of this was that everybody we bought through, when they started working for the organization, worked way harder so the productivity was phenomenal. It wasn’t just them. Everybody then around them actually then started to raise their game as well, rather than being shown up So huge win there on the productivity.” I said, “Well, that sounds great. What was the second one?” He said, “Well, we don’t have such a word as retention.” He said, “That literally is not part of our vocabulary because people don’t leave. Certainly, the people we put through our program never leave because they’re so appreciative, but also, because of the culture and the environment we’re creating, nobody else wants to leave so that really has been a huge game changer.”

James Fellowes (39m 37s):
“Well, that’s pretty extraordinary. I can’t imagine how you can top that, but you said there’s the third one that was even better?” He said, “Well, yes. I’m a bit embarrassed to say this really, because this wasn’t the plan, but it’s turned out to be an amazing byproduct of our Inclusive recruitment program,” and I said, “What is that?” He said, “Well, we win pretty well every pitch or RFP that we go for.” I was very intrigued and I said, “How, how on earth do you do that?” He said, “It’s quite simple. When we’re pitching for the TD recycling of Birmingham or whatever city it might be, everybody else is playing a pricing game. They’re all trying to undercut each other and it’s all price per ton.

James Fellowes (40m 18s):
We just say if you do a hundred tons, we’ll put one homeless person to work on your project. If you do 300, we’ll put five people on your project. We win every pitch as a result, which is pretty extraordinary.” I said, “What’s your pricing?” He goes, “We’re more expensive than everybody else,” so it really reinforced why this actually is not just a good thing to do. It’s an incredibly smart thing to do. This also reinforced all the research that I’d learned from the Business in the Community as to why Inclusive recruitment was such a smart commercial decision for businesses and also helps oversee an awful lot of people back into work and changes lives as we know.

Matt Alder (41m 8s):
Just to put that back over to Chance, you’re talking out here about grit and resilience, how important they were, and how they’re such desirable attributes for employers. Talk us through a little bit more about what makes the people that you work with such a unique talent pool and why employers should be looking at bringing them into their organization.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (41m 40s):
Yes, absolutely. They’re simply gritty people, resilient people. If you’ve gone through barriers all your life, you face barriers, everything’s always stacked against you, the very fact that they’re still here trying, still continuing to look for work suggests a really serious amount of resilience. This is why I use the phrase earlier “diamonds in the rough,” because that’s what these candidates are. They’re very gritty. You want them there. They’re very resilient. You should want them there. Iif all you have to do is just polish them a little bit and watch them sparkle, then it’s worth doing.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (42m 20s):
It’s worth saying, “Okay, this person just needs to learn how to run this system.” Once we teach them that, what you’ll get is a really resilient candidate doing that work, someone who probably will not leave, and in fact, it won’t be long before they’re promoted. This is what we’re finding in various companies.

Matt Alder (42m 44s):
James, you’re creating a really interesting blueprint in the UK with all of this. How do you plan to scale it?

James Fellowes (42m 50s):
Well, we were initially funded by several wonderful social impact organizations, such as Nesta, Innovate, and Big Issue Impact. Now, we’re embarking on our next stage, which is a big seed round to try and help the sustainability scale of our social impact business, primarily for further technology, but also more people. We talked about, we are primarily a people person supported by technology rather than the other way round. We’re now planning to prove the model over the next two to three years in the UK. The goal is to try and put 6,000 people who have barriers to employment into work by 2025.

James Fellowes (43m 34s):
That will be generating just over 51 million pounds in social value. Once we’ve cracked that code, we’ve got the blueprint sorted, then we absolutely want to go international, probably starting in America.

Matt Alder (43m 51s):
Finally, Chance, how’s your life been changed through this opportunity, and who else benefits from it?

Chance Bleu Montgomery (43m 57s):
Well, one of the most important things for me was just to have some dignity. When you’re given a job and you’re working, you do feel dignified, and when you don’t have a job, you don’t. This spreads into the family. The family feel incredible. My family are incredibly proud of the work that I’m doing. I know, with me doing the work, they’re so uplifted by it. One of the things that, and I say this when I’m doing some talks, when someone’s given a job, we know their children are watching. When they don’t have a job, we know that their children are watching.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (44m 44s):
It has an impact on people’s lives and that’s how it’s had an impact on mine, because my son said something to me and I had to go off to a corner for the tears too. He said, “Dad, I love who you are.” That really moved me. It really moved me because it was different from “I love, you.” Having this job, doing the work that I’m doing, and doing the stuff that I’m doing, really does nourish the lives of other people in the family. Funny enough, one of my brothers who could have been doing much more since I’ve been doing this, has been trying to do much more.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (45m 31s):
It’s raised even healthy competition in my family. People are stepping up and trying to get some stuff done. It really does have an impact and that’s why we look at it as more of we’re in the business of changing lives, Matt, because we know when someone gets a job, it doesn’t just change the life of that individual. It affects the whole family.

Matt Alder (45m 59s):
As a closing question, if people want to know more, how can they get in touch with you?

James Fellowes (46m 9s):
First of all, thank you so much, Matt. We’ve so enjoyed this, and we’d absolutely love to hear from your audience. Our inclusive talent portal can be found at and just click on contact us if you’d like to contact Chance or myself. I’d also be delighted to share any research on Inclusive recruitment. If you’re interested in the portal, be sure to mention Recruiting Futures, and we’ll give you a nice juicy discount.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (46m 35s):
Finally, be sure to connect with or message us on LinkedIn. There’s a link to both of our LinkedIn profiles on the blurb for this podcast.

Matt Alder (46m 45s):
James and Chance, it’s been an absolute privilege to talk to you. Thank you so much for coming to the show.

James Fellowes (46m 54s):
Thank you also, Matt.

Chance Bleu Montgomery (46m 55s):
Thank you, Matt. Brilliant. It’s been such a pleasure.

Matt Alder (46m 59s):
My thanks to Chance and James. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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